In the year since Facebook banned Holocaust denial from its platform and finally classified it as hate speech instead of “misinformation,” a new ADL (Anti-Defamation League) analysis of the platform has found “cracks in enforcement” that have allowed Holocaust denial posts to still be accessible to many users.
In the year since the October 2020 ban on Holocaust denial, Facebook has removed groups dedicated to Holocaust denial and has prevented users from getting results when they search for the term “Holohoax,” which is frequently associated with such hate speech, according to the assessment prepared by ADL’s Center on Extremism. But a number of other search terms related to Holocaust denial continued to turn up results. Those results include external links to Holocaust denial videos or articles, and many of those were shared by known Holocaust deniers and antisemites and were accompanied by antisemitic rhetoric.
“One year since they first implemented their policy, Facebook has taken some positive steps to address the proliferation of Holocaust denial, but that doesn’t mean that the problem has gone away” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “There’s still a lot of Holocaust denial on Facebook. We urge the platform to take additional steps to address these cracks in enforcement as well as to ensure that the ban is more consistently applied across the platform.”
In October and November, ADL experts conducted an extensive search of Facebook for content that blatantly violated their policy against Holocaust denial. Those experts then flagged the antisemitic speech using the platform’s built-in reporting mechanism, flagging the offensive content through an individual user’s account. As of Nov. 29, Facebook had only replied to concerns about one of the posts flagged, which called the Holocaust a fraud, and indicated that the post was not in violation of its hate speech policy.
ADL’s report found that existing groups dedicated to broader conspiracies also frequently contain Holocaust denial. One such post was shared in the public Facebook group “Conspiracy Research,” which has more than 12,500 members.
“As ADL has explained to Facebook for years, Holocaust denialism is hate speech. It is the deliberately antisemitic attempt to claim that the Holocaust never happened or that a much smaller number of Jews did die,” said Greenblatt. “This offensive content causes pain and harm for Jews, particularly at a time of rising concern about antisemitic incidents.”
ADL’s report recommends Facebook should expand the language parameters it uses to detect Holocaust denial, including developing and applying more sophisticated technology such as natural language processing or other machine learning techniques. Likewise, the report recommends that Facebook and other tech companies invest more resources into understanding and preventing the spread of Holocaust denial.